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November 2017

Seeding frenzy

Sometimes the seeds of a great career in engineering lie in a project studying seeds themselves — or the technology that helps farmers plant them. For Joel Gervais, it all started during his Master’s program at the University of Saskatchewan’s Department of Agricultural and Bioresource Engineering, when a Mitacs Accelerate internship gave him the opportunity to work with CNH Industries on a project evaluating the efficiency — and ultimately the viability — of new, larger seeding equipment to be pulled by tractors.

A few years later, that opportunity has allowed Joel to build a career for himself, and make developments that have benefitted the company and Canada’s agricultural sector.

“It was hardcore research,” says Joel, looking back on his internship. “Not just gathering data, but also looking at the results, drawing conclusions, and making recommendations directly to the general manager. It was more like a project as a professional than as an intern, and it definitely gave me a foot in the door.” Joel’s internship also led to the company filing a patent on some of his work.

CNH’s Innovation Competence Centre Project Manager, Jim Henry, says the company benefitted from having an intern on-board to do more research. “It lets us review high-level concepts to determine their value. The Mitacs funding also stretched our dollar further.”

And Joel’s research continued to prove valuable after his internship was over. During his graduate studies, his ongoing work on improving seeding technology resulted in two more patents for CNH, and a job offer for Joel.

Jim says it’s a relationship that’s continued to pay off. “It’s been great having him on staff. He’s been able to continue his seeding research, and work on other products — work that’s resulted in some intellectual property (IP) that’s let us protect our inventions.”

 “I didn’t know the value of IP until I was on the job here and into my grad studies,” says Joel. “It’s so important to these industries — we’re all gunning for the next best thing, and people can make developments in a couple of weeks, so there’s a drive to be the first in new innovations, and to be the best.

“I appreciate the opportunity Mitacs gave me. It led me to a career that’s a lot cooler than I’d originally envisioned.”

Mitacs thanks the Government of Canada and the Government of Saskatchewan for their support of the Accelerate research internship in this story. Across Canada, the Accelerate program also receives support from Alberta Innovates, the Government of British Columbia, the Government of New Brunswick, the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador, the Government of Nova Scotia, the Government of Ontario, the Government of Prince Edward Island, the Government of Quebec, and Research Manitoba.

Do you have a business challenge that could benefit from a research solution? If so, contact Mitacs today to discuss partnership opportunities: